Updated: a day ago
Written by Rebecca Mackay Miller: a Brand Strategist, Storyteller, Word of Mouth aficionado and big believer that figuring shit out is an art. She helps women build businesses that set their souls on fire and do good, their way.
Think for a moment of the most meaningful, challenging yet life affirming relationship you’ve ever had. I bet at times it was magical, inspiring, rousing. Others, messy, infuriating, lonely.
The relationship you have with your business is no different. And just like other relationships, it takes work to make it work.
As a creative, I’d wager that the term ‘strategy’ and the rigid, structured imagery that word evokes doesn’t really do it for you. It’s not how your brain works. It stifles the fluidity you need to create, and anyway you wouldn’t even know where to start.
I see you and as a small business owner, I’ve been you.
I’d argue however, that having a brand strategy mapped out is essential in granting you the freedom to be creative and evolve organically within your business AND ensure those dreams of yours come true.
First up, what is a Brand Strategy?
Some people you’re just naturally drawn to. You can’t put your finger on it, but there’s a connection, you trust them. Others are shady AF, and you stay well away.
The way that people perceive brands is the same, and you sure as hell want yours to fall in the first camp.
This where your brand strategy comes in. It maps out what you stand for, why you do what do you do and who for. It brings to life the things that make you YOU. Then, ensures it’s communicated consistently so that your audience know exactly what they’re getting, Every. Single. Time.
But that’s not all. Your brand strategy also blueprints the business you want to build. A roadmap directing you from where you’re at now, to where you want to be in five, ten years’ time.
Just like google maps will offer up three different routes to the same place, your brand strategy keeps you focused on the destination, whilst enabling you choose the path.
This is where the freedom part comes in; when you’re clear on your end goal, you can make informed, dare I say it ‘strategic’, decisions about where to channel your creative energy.
What goes into a Brand Strategy?
A purist will tell you there are 10 must have components of a Brand Strategy. They’re not wrong, but I like to keep things simple. Here are the elements I work through with clients:
The beliefs that underpin your business, the values that guide it, your vision, purpose, and mission.
The unique place you occupy in people’s minds; the quirks, features, life experiences that set you apart from the crowd and make your offering unique and inimitable.
Getting under the skin of (I’m talking down and dirty with) your ideal customer.
The words, phrases and characteristics that define your brand.
Everything your audience needs to know (and how to articulate it) to convince them to buy.
Weaving together the parts of you that will make your audience fall in love.
Your ‘look’; logo, colour palette, typeface, imagery come last. Always.
How to get started with your Brand Strategy.
Again, Purists will tell you to start with customer and competitor research. And again, they’re not wrong; an in-depth understanding of your audience and industry is vital.
The reality is that there are a gazillion people who do what you do. They probably look and sound the same. In this over crowed, noisy space YOU are what makes your business unique.
So, we start there. And we go deep.
Your business is built on a belief (whether you consciously acknowledge it or not).⠀ ⠀ A belief that something could be better, that we can do better or that the world could be better... if only THIS ONE THING were true, different or in existence. ⠀ ⠀ That one thing could have impact on a global or individual scale. It could be environmental, social, fill an empty wall with joy or parents lives easier. That belief underpins your entire brand strategy.
Your Vision is a world where this thing already exists and is a better place for it.
Your Purpose is to make it happen or enable it to (together they make up your WHY)
Your Mission is WHAT you actually do day to day to achieve it.
Your Values determine HOW.
In my book, nailing your Beliefs and Values are crucial. Once you have these down, your Purpose, Vision and Mission (and all other elements of your brand strategy) flow.
Below I’ve shared exercises I take my clients through, to do just that. You’ll need a pen, notepad, and post its (or, if you’re that way inclined, a digital brainstorm tool like Miro or Mural).
Plus, the willingness to spend some quality time, nourishing, reinvigorating, and bringing the spark back to the relationship you have with your business, on the regs.
Trust me, your creativity will thank you for it.
Exercise 1 | How to unearth your Brand Beliefs:
1. On individual post it notes, write down every belief that comes to mind, even if it doesn’t feel relevant to your business. Examples could be ‘everyone has a voice and should use it’, ‘creativity can not be taught’, ‘equity, not equality is the goal’ etc.
2. Sort and group any that say the same thing. Choose one post it to represent that grouping or write a new one that better captures them all.
3. Order them, to create a belief hierarchy. Start with the broadest belief at the top and ladder these down to the more specific, business related beliefs at the bottom.
For example, on a universal level I believe we need to radically rebalance the weighting of masculine and feminine energy in the world and build a new future that prioritises equality and ecology, protection and restoration over profit and shareholders.
This ladders down (via several others) to the belief most related to my business: that the best businesses are small, sustainably focused, independently owned and run by people who absolutely embody their why. And, that they’re held up by a collective of equally brilliant Founders, who cheer us on and plug the gap on each other’s expertise.
You should be left with a concise narrative that defines the beliefs that underpin your business.
Exercise 2 | Define your Brand Values: ⠀ Your Values are the non-negotiable rules of play that guide everything your business is and does. Think of them as imaginary board members you must run all biz decisions past. ⠀ ⠀ Because of this, single words are not enough. You must be able to articulate the essence of the value in a sentence and back it up with actual proof points that demonstrate how you live by them. ⠀⠀ For example, one of my values is Wonder, and it looks like this: ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ WORD: ⠀ Wonder
At what you could know if you looked beyond what you do.
· It’s not about what I know, it’s what I can help you to know; I go all in on the value I share and the support I offer other female founders.
· Committed to paying forward my experience and expertise in support of others who crave guidance but are not able to commit financially.
· Committed to reading, listening, learning, and understanding in incremental depth the ride or die topics, passions and subject areas that interest me.
· Generous in how I shine a light on and raise up other small biz owners, so that others can celebrate and know them too.
To get started:
1. Set a timer for 5 mins and write down every value that comes to mind on a separate post it. Don’t over think and or worry if you duplicate sentiment, just capture everything you can.
2. As before, sort and group any that say the same thing. Choose one post it to represent that grouping or write a new one that better captures them all.
3. Once you have your final words (aim for a minimum of three values and a maximum of seven) write once sentence that describes what that word means to you, in the context of your business.
4. Then for each value, list 3-5 proof points. They should come easily - if not, revisit how important that value really is to you. ⠀
Boom, there you have it; a fool proof way to build a set of Brand Values that serve your business. ⠀
Exercise 3 | Discerning your Vision, Purpose and Mission
A few tips:
Your Vision should be aspirational, and doesn’t need to be something you achieve, rather something you work towards. I suggest starting the sentence with ‘A world where….’
As an example, mine is: A more rooted world, where the businesses we run set our souls on fire and do good, and we live happier, more connected and fulfilling lives because of it.
Your Purpose should be active. I suggest starting with the word ‘To….’
Mine is: To help people figure this shit out.
Unlike your Vision, your Mission should be accomplishable, it details what you do day to day and who for. Here, the following formular can be a useful starting point:
I help _______________ X_______________ do _______________ Y________________ so they can _________________ Z __________________ by ______________________________________ .
Mine is: I help wildly ambitious, conscious women build service-based businesses that do good, feel right, and set their fucking souls on fire, their way, using my unique framework, Strategy + Storytelling | Figured Out.
Watch Tommy & Rebecca's Business for Creatives: Brand Strategy IGTV here: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CQgNcSHoivQ/